14/7/16

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I got the ebook for Neoreaction a Basilisk by Phil Sandifer because I backed the Kickstarter; the book should be widely released next year.

This is kind of a weird book. It's a book of philosophy-as-horror that takes as its organizing principle the internet "rationalist" movement, and the neoreactionary and alt-right movements, and the ways in which they intersect; but it loops out to consider Thomas Ligotti, China Mieville, Franz Fanon, Paradise Lost, Hannibal, and especially William Blake.

As a work of philosophy, it is unusual in that it is thoughtful, accessible, and well-written. Having read a couple of the "Philosophy and [Arbitrary popular mass-media product]" books, I have to say that it's refreshing for a writer to take Arbitrary Popular Mass-Media Product seriously in a way that doesn't seem like a condescending "Hey, kids! What does Hannibal have to teach us about [Arbitrary Philosophy 101 Topic]?" - and it's maybe still more refreshing that the book deliberately turns away from the impulse to tie things up neatly, arguing (correctly, I think) that rationality needs empathy and imagination if it's to get beyond a small and circumscribed vision of the world, and stepping away from the bounds of what we can logic out necessarily means embracing uncertainty.

I'm not sure how much appeal the book would have for somebody who didn't have at least a little bit of train-wreck-curiosity about the main topics of the book, and if you do have a little bit of train-wreck-curiosity you probably already backed this guy's kickstarter. But I am really glad I read it.

(And it pointed me to China Mieville's essay on social sadism, which I must now track down.)

N.B: Sandifer is also the author of Guided by the Beauty of Their Weapons, on Theodore Beale and the recent Hugo debacle. I recommend it as well.

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